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KIRSTIN L. SQUINT High Point University Choctaw Homescapes: LeAnne Howe’s Gulf Coast IN THE WINTER 2008 ISSUE OF AMERICAN INDIAN QUARTERLY, EDITORS D. Anthony Tyeeme Clark and Malea Powell introduce the phrase “Indigenous groundwork at colonial intersections” (5) as a way to invigorate scholarly studies focused on place and space, in particular the relationship of Indigenous peoples to those spaces and places. Their argument is intellectual, political, and ethical: Indigenous groundwork marks Indigenous epistemologies that inform identities, resistances,andsurvivals. Understood asresistancestohegemonyyetstillasstruggles forhegemony(or,better,hegemonies),Indigenousgroundworknameslong-standing responsibilities to the well-defined and marked landscapes on this planet that Original Peoples call home and those starting places that make us and therefore require our honor and respect. (5) Their vision of such scholarly work is informed by American Indian literary nationalist arguments about the rights of Native peoples in relation to the land, as well as about the responsibilities of writers and critics.1 In particular, they link groundwork to the concept of homescapes, as coined by Muskogee literary critic and novelist Craig Womack.2 Clark and Powell envision Indigenous homescapes as a theoreticalconstruct,theintersectionofcolonizingideologiesandNative epistemologies “that intimately and interdependently are interwoven with and emergent from the territories in which Indigenous people live” (13). Thus, in the United States, Indigenous groundwork takes into account both physical spaces and theoretical possibilities for what space may mean in light of a history of removals, treaty-making and breaking, reservation-creation,andcontinuedstrugglesforrecognition,rights,and land. 1 See Craig Womack’s Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism and Native American Literary Nationalism by Jace Weaver, Craig Womack, and Robert Warrior. 2 The authors also cite roots for Indigenous groundwork in the writings of Vine Deloria, Jr., Robert K. Thomas, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Taiaiake Alfred, and Daniel R. Wildcat. 116 Kirstin L. Squint Oklahoma Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe has situated sections of works and entire works on the Gulf Coast, in Mississippi and Louisiana, the original and contemporary homelands of the Choctaw. Both states arehometofederally-recognizedChoctawtribalpeoples(theMississippi Band of Choctaws and the Jena Band of Choctaws)3 with historic and contemporary ties to Gulf Coast lands. Given their long history in the region, it is not surprising that the topography and geography of both states still hold meaning for those Choctaw peoples who were removed to Indian Territory in the early nineteenth century. It is important to note that Womack’s “home-scape” neologism derives from his claim that “some writers do not have enough tribal experience to negotiate these realities [of tribal life] where one both draws from the community and forges his or her own path—these kinds of critical decisions involve a lived relationship with the people and land and government of a particular home-scape” (“Review” 136). Some critics might find my application of “home-scape” to Howe’s Gulf Coast representations dubious, considering that she was raised in Oklahoma. However, in my interview with her, Howe argues that Choctaw Southern spaces and places traveled with those who were forced on the Trail of Tears: [W]hat did we do when we came to Oklahoma or to Indian Territory? Just about every place name in Louisiana and Mississippi was transferred and then renamed in our new homelands, now the state of Oklahoma. . . .Tannehill where my family is from around McAlester, Oklahoma, is one example, and there is also a Tannehill, Louisiana. Tupelo, Mississippi, becomes Tupelo in Indian Territory, now Tupelo, Oklahoma. Every place name is renamed by the people. Nanih Waiya in Mississippi is Nanih Waiya, the lake at Tushkahoma, Oklahoma. Why is that important? The Choctaws took handfuls of earth from the land around the Nanih Waiya, our mother mound in Mississippi, as they began their journey on the Trail of Tears. When we brought our earth, when we brought our people, the names came with us. The Choctawan names are thousands of years old. The names. So the falaya, the long of it, is renamed. And that’s to remind us and remind the people who live in our territories today, who are newcomers, that we are from ancient places; we are people who sprang up out of the Lower Mississippi Valley. (“Choctawan Aesthetics” 222-23) Howe...


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